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1,000+ turn out, sign up for Atlanta City Council comment period on public safety training center issue

With more than 350 people signed up to speak, the public comment period will likely go late into the night and possibly into the following days.

ATLANTA — A staggering number of people signed up for public comment Monday at the Atlanta City Council meeting, with scores more who still wished to join the speaking list.

The City Council meeting began its public comment period as hundreds of people packed City Hall, the large majority of them drawn by the issue of the future Atlanta Public Safety Training Center.

With more than 1,000 people signed up to speak, according to Council President Doug Shipman, the public comment period will likely go late into the night and possibly into the following days.

RELATED: Watch live | City Council set to vote on funding for public safety training center

To accommodate more speakers, the Council agreed to go into a "committee of the whole," once the initial list of 350+ speakers is exhausted. 

11Alive is streaming the meeting on our YouTube channel.

The "committee of the whole" maneuver is a parliamentary move that was brought by Councilman Michael Julian Bond that will allow for further public comments. It's unclear how many more people were signed up to speak at that point.

At some point following public comment, the Council is expected to take up and vote on an ordinance for funding the public safety training center, which has been met with a long-running protest movement calling it "Cop City."

The funding measure, Ordinance 23-O-1257, would provide a $30 million payment to support the construction of the training center, as well as approve a "lease-back" agreement that would see Atlanta make $1.2 million yearly payments for 30 years to the Atlanta Police Foundation - roughly doubling the city's contribution to the project, 11Alive's Doug Richards reported this week.

“The vote today will be about approving the financial commitment and approving the revenue source for the funds the city is putting towards this project," district 5 councilwoman Liliana Bakhtiari said. “I think the things that are realistic are asking for a change of location, asking for a change of scope, but the reality is I focus on the fight that we can win and there is no way to win the fight of no facility whatsoever.”

Opposition against the training center has become a mushrooming cause for left-leaning activists in Atlanta, nationally and even around the world. 

“I don’t think we need more police, and the police we have, they need to be more compassionate about human rights and trying to see each other in the eye and look for love and not for war," one protester who went by Luciana said Monday. “We want our parks, and we want a safe place for everyone to come together and no more guns. We don’t need that.”

The Council vote represents one of the last official hurdles for the project, which has cleared regulatory hurdles in DeKalb County - where it is to be built on land in the South River Forest - as well as some legal challenges.

That potential last chance to register opposition in an official forum - and perhaps persuade the City Council to deal a serious blow to the project - has rallied huge crowds to City Hall and even more outside.

This discussion really has to be about what kind of facilities do we need in order to protect our city, and can we do that in a cost-effective way that doesn’t spoil the environment?” Atlanta City Council president Doug Shipman said.

Shipman said council could pass the legislation, which would then go to Mayor Andre Dickens for a final signature. The ordinance could also be referred to committee, which would mean the legislation could undergo changes and be brought back up in two weeks at the next regularly scheduled council meeting.

Shipman said council could also vote to table the legislation as it stands, either indefinitely or until the next council meeting. Finally, Shipman said council could vote not to pass the legislation, which would mean the city would need to find funding for the public safety training center from other sources.

“If they vote to approve, my understanding is that the Atlanta Police Foundation, who’s actually executing the project, would take out a loan and begin construction over the summer and early fall," Shipman said. “We know the money is in place, so this is a pool of funds that exists in this budget. In essence, it’s a very clear way to have a funding source and use sort of moved. Other ways would mean cutting certain things or additional moves. This is a very clear way. That money exists, it’s already there, and it could be used for this purpose.”

Shipman said the vote could impact when construction picks up on the project. He said council has worked to make the project as transparent as possible by asking the Atlanta Police Foundation for regular reports on construction and how it's spending money, council representation on APF's board, and environmental impact studies to be done as plans continue to unfold on the project.


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